1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

Luke 4:1-3, ESV

Green Pastures and Still Waters.

What does being led by God’s Spirit look like? When we talk about being led by the Spirit of God, we might easily be misunderstood by people who do not share our faith. In addition, we might be accidentally causing more confusion on the subject because of the ways we tend to speak about God’s leading. The trend in Evangelical circles is to imagine that being led by the Spirit of God is something like a bellhop. “Good day sir. Let me get those bags for you, sir. Right, this way sir”. As if the Spirit’s primary responsibilities are to open doors to new and better opportunities, and steer us away from any and all discomfort and negative outcomes. I suspect we might think this way because we’re reading the Scriptures with accidental self-centeredness and it shades everything we read like 3-D glasses. Our lenses make us see things as we wish they were but not as they actually are.

Passages like Psalm 23 are often partially quoted by those who see through a false lens. Admittedly, it is tempting to focus on the good and neglect the bad, but if we only think of God’s leading with embellishments and good vibes we could be preparing ourselves for a rude awakening. Psalm 23 reads, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness 

for his name’s sake.” Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Amen. This is a beautiful passage that describes the Spirit’s leading, but the passage isn’t finished. There is more. David goes on in the Psalm to say, ” Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”. How does that sound? I think it sounds terrifying for the sheep. Notice, that the picture is not to lead the sheep out of the valley but through the valley. Why? Why would the Spirit lead us through suffering? The Psalm ends with the picture of eternal bliss, and rest in the presence of the LORD. The green pastures and still waters were excellent, but the be led into the house of the LORD was through the path in the valley of the shadow of death. The Apostle Paul taught the early Christians of Lystra, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” 

Through many tribulations. 

 Time could not permit me to outline the leading of God’s Spirit from the beginning in the Garden of Eden through the last battle and into the New Jerusalem. God’s Spirit has from beginning to end led God’s people into temptation and through it for our good and His glory. That is the pattern of God’s leading. If there ever was a pattern for God’s children to follow, Jesus’ life is surely it. However, Jesus’ life is more than a simple example to follow. The temptation narrative is much deeper than a “how-to manual” on the subject of escaping temptation. 

Jesus is baptized and immediately the Spirit of God leads the Son of God into the wilderness in order that He may be tempted by Satan. Why? This is a kind of poetic recapitulation of the Eden narrative. Instead of a beautiful garden teeming with life, Jesus is in a barren wasteland. Instead of a man being the figure of authority (under God) in the beautiful garden, Satan is the one who is the figure of authority in the ugly wilderness. Instead of Adam being the representative of humanity, Jesus is our federal head. Do you see it? This scene is special. Jesus is that “seed of the woman” who was promised to do battle with and crush the serpent’s head. He has arrived, but the beautiful garden is lost and now replaced with an ugly desert devoid of life. 

Christ, our King will do what Adam failed to accomplish and bring lead His progeny (Isa 53:10) into glory through His righteous deeds in fulfilling the stipulations of God’s covenant. Jesus is our high priest who “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). That devil tried to sabotage God’s plan of redemption as he did sabotage mankind’s original state of righteousness. Satan had won the victory over Adam but was now to become trampled beneath the feet of Christ the conquering King. Jesus’ victory was our victory because He came for us all who were given to the Son to redeem by the will of the Father (Jo 17:9-11). This wilderness temptation was the beginning of Christ’s work that culminated with Jesus exalted as the glorified King crowned with honor and given all authority in Heaven and earth. In the beautifully poetic language of the King James translators, “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord (Ps 118)” and “Who is this King of glory?The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah. (Ps 24)”